The Isle of Harris has launched a responsible tourism campaign as travel restrictions ease.

Two community land trusts in Harris – the North Harris Trust and West Harris Trust – in partnership with the local tourism organisation Outer Hebrides Tourism, have been "working hard in preparation for the anticipated staycation boom".

While tourism bodies and operators are very keen to welcome visitors back once again, they also recognise the importance of striking a balance between visitors enjoying the best of the islands “whilst at the same time holidaying in harmony with the local environment and local communities”.

A visitor management plan for Harris funded by NatureScot, including comprehensive consultation with the local community and tourism industry representatives, highlighted  five key areas of concern. Part of this work was to then develop a consumer-facing campaign that could communicate these core messages out to visitors, both in planning for their trip and to encourage responsible behaviour during their stay.

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Central to this responsible tourism campaign is the new Isle of Harris is a Special P.L.A.C.E. message. The aim was to create a simple acronym which would be both clear for visitors to understand and be memorable.

P for Parking. L for Litter. A for Animals. C for Campers. E for Engage, all forming the Special P.L.A.C.E. acronym, with the call “please help us to keep it that way”, was devised.

The collaborative community led campaign is currently being rolled out and is supported by VisitScotland, CalMac, NatureScot, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and tourism operators across the whole of the Outer Hebrides.

HeraldScotland: Iconic Harris. Getty Images.Iconic Harris. Getty Images.

Linda Armstrong, of West Harris Trust, said: “We have all been living in unprecedented times and it is wonderful to see things starting to get back to something much more normal.

“We also look forward to welcoming tourists back too but have had to focus on some difficult visitor management issues which arose from the increased visitor numbers last summer, issues which were magnified by the pandemic.

“We are delighted that six local youngsters are helping us to launch these important PLACE messages today, this campaign is all about looking after our environment and our communities and it is absolutely right that our young people are here to represent the faces of the future."

David Wake, of North Harris Trust, said: “We look forward to welcoming visitors to our special part of the world and hope that this campaign provides our visitors with clear and useful messages about how to enjoy our islands responsibly and for the benefit of everyone.

“As well as better messaging, longer term action does need to be taken in relation to parking, camping and in protecting our fragile environment for future generations.” 

Rob McKinnon of Outer Hebrides Tourism said: “Harris is one of the most popular destinations in the Outer Hebrides and regular visitors know how special a place it is.  We want this campaign to remind all visitors of the important role they have in maintaining it. We look forward to expanding the campaign across the Outer Hebrides during the summer in collaboration with local partners.”

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